Wikimedia Foundation today announced the end of Wikipedia Zero, its initiative to offer the online encyclopedia at no cost to users around the world. The organization announced on Monday that it would phase Zero out by the end of 2018.
Zero was launched back in 2012 to primarily allow users in developing countries to access its crowdsourced data without having to pay for data charges to cellular carriers. In a blog post, Wikimedia cited low engagement since 2016 to be the primary reason behind the decision. The organization also stated that it has stopped forming new partnerships with carriers and that it will let current contracts end over time.
Wikimedia in the post also cited a host of other reasons behind the decision, with some of them being positives for the organization. One such reason was that of low awareness about Wikipedia in developing countries, such as those in Africa. Another important reason cited was the fall in data costs over the years, suggesting that a larger share of people did not mind paying for data to access Wikipedia.
The organization did, however, state that it had not given up on concepts similar to Zero. It has several “ideas” in the pipeline and will use 2018 to finalize its plan after Zero dies off.
The end of Wikipedia Zero, on the other hand, can be seen as another failure on the part of better-known companies and organizations to offer free services, against net neutrality.